Beware: Next Attempt By Corrupt Camera Company to Steal From NJ Motorists is Underway

Quick: what do you when you come upon a school bus from the opposite direction - but there is a grass median between you and the bus?

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon today warned NJ motorists that Redflex Traffic systems - one of the two now infamous red light camera companies blessedly sent packing with the end of the failed pilot program in December - is trying to bring automated enforcement back to NJ.

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The "Third Option" To Efficient Policing

The concept of municipal consolidation/shared services is referred to by some as the panacea for high property taxes.  Others claim that consolidation/shared services is a pipe dream and not worth pursuing because no single service will solve our property tax problem.  Both sides of this argument are wrong.  No one act or reform will slash our taxes - short of major increases in other taxes.  To argue that we shouldn't pursue such reforms because they won't save "enough" is to argue against doing anything to cost costs.  On the contrary, the answer is we must do EVERYTHING.

Merging of municipalities is a heavy lift. People have nostalgic attachments to their town names and pride in their community identity. And if things don't go as well as planned, ain't no going back.  That leaves shared services  as the sweet spot - much easier to attain than wholesale municipal mergers and can generate 60 to 80% of the savings.

We must then hone in on the areas where we can get the greatest amount of savings.  Things like public works and administration sound like good targets but those areas have already, frequently, been cut to the bone.  One area in many municipalities that is ripe for restructuring: police.

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Assemblyman O'Scanlon's Original Post-9/11 Column

This originally appeared in Assemblyman O'Scanlon's Carpe Eatem Column:

So what’s the author of an irreverent restaurant review column to do when the whole country is feeling somber and sick to its collective stomach?

Wow.  I was in the middle of writing my first column after my summer sabbatical when the first plane hit the Trade Center.  Every exclamation ever conceived by anyone throughout history has been used to describe the horror that occurred that day.  I’m not an eloquent enough writer to improve on that.  But I can’t simply crank up and move on without some form of acknowledgement.  So here’s my humble, jumbled Carpe Eatem take.  You’ll have to forgive me – I’m much better at irreverence than reverence.

Anyone who’s been a regular reader of this column knows about my belief in God.  I’ve cited scads of evidence that irrefutably supports my conviction: in the smile of an old woman as you hold a door, in hot fudge sundaes, in the eyes of your dog when you get home, in that first bite of an Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel, in every touch from someone you love, in love itself, in Windmill Cheese Fries.  Tomorrow the car will break down, my roof will spring a leak or a loved one (or 10,000 loved ones) might be taken from me unexpectedly.  I’ll be mad and stranded and wet and sad.  But that doesn’t change the evidence.  But in case the everyday, whimsical examples of God’s existence, and supreme sense of humor, aren’t enough to convince you, witness then the reaction of people since September 11th’s destruction.

Like everyone after the attack I sat there before my TV.  Dumbstruck.  Flirting with contemplation of the horror.  In shock.  No appetite – which for me is a pretty big, sad deal.  Having been sitting in front of my computer doing a food column maybe was what sparked my thoughts of the buildings.  My first trip to the Trade Center was with my dad for what was likely my 10th birthday.  Windows on the world baby.  Nothing excites a boy more (before his 16th birthday anyway) than tree forts.  The Trade Center towers were the motherload of tree forts.  I still remember looking out those windows – convinced that I could see so far that if I strained just a little harder I could see all the way around to the back of my head looking the other way.  I remember the layout of the place and the thin fried onions on my steak.  I always just assumed that someday I’d bring my kids there.

On Wednesday night – the day after the attack – I sat late at night all alone on my back deck.  It was so quiet with no planes in the air and no people on the streets that I could hear every cricket, and the sound of my dog breathing as he lay asleep at my feet.  There was no wind – as if the world itself had stopped turning.  And it was just time to cry.  But I still wasn’t hungry.

I had to drive North into Connecticut on the Saturday following the attack.  Almost every bridge had banners and flags flying from it.  One, in particular, stood out.  It was one simple word – FAITH.  And each letter was written in Red, White and Blue.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Those of us who have lost someone we love know the worst feeling in the world – when you wake up the day after they die and you have to almost relive the moment you lost them all over again.  Then you lie there.  Listening to the world outside – the trains running as usual, phones ringing, people going on with their lives.  And it seems wrong that they don’t know that the person you loved is gone.  But that’s not the case with this loss.  Those who are grieving for loved ones lost know that everywhere they go, every minute of every day, that every American is grieving with them.  I don’t know exactly why that makes me feel so much better, but it does.

The United States of America was born out of a struggle with an opponent who underestimated our resilience, ignored our resolve and couldn’t comprehend our spirit.  Since then we’ve vanquished numerous adversaries who made the same miscalculations.  This one too shall fall.  Rising to the occasion is our specialty.  It’s all about FAITH. 

It’s at the moments of our greatest adversity that we as individuals and we as a Country excel beyond everyone’s wildest estimation.  We could dwell on the unfortunate reality that adversity frequently comes with the loss of people and places and things dear to our hearts.  Or, we could honor those who have fallen by rising to this occasion like we have never before in our lifetimes.  I bet our fallen loved ones would opt for the latter. 

Of course one of the best aspects of this truly wonderful society that we’ve created is our irreverence, our wit, and our ability to survive even the most heinous devastation with our good humor intact.  So while we’re busy kicking the butts of those responsible for this terrible attack we must remember – ya gotta eat.  Toward that end Carpe Eatem will be here all along the way.  One of a billion small efforts that will collectively show the world that our spirit can’t be beat.  If only I had an appetite… 

On the Thursday after the bombing I was still doing what everyone else was doing – watching TV in shock.  The news was focusing on the rescue effort.  They cut to a camera and sounds of the recovery area.  The machines were loud and there was banging and clanging as the tireless rescuers continued to remove the shattered remnants of the Trade Center in a desperate search for survivors.  All of a sudden I was aware of more sound than was coming out of the TV.  Someone was banging and clanging outside my house.  I looked out the window and had one of those faith affirming moments of hope that – if you’re paying attention – seem to show up just when you need them.  The sound outside my window, which was melding almost perfectly with the sounds emanating from the rescue effort on my TV, was that of a guy across the street installing a giant, wooden stork announcing the birth of my neighbors’ baby.  He was born Tuesday, September 11.  Mid morning.  Suddenly I had a craving for a bacon cheeseburger.


Carpe Eatem.

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Links to Red Light Camera Studies

Here are links to studies supporting our claims on Red Light Cameras:

University of South Florida Study:

USF follow-up to their study, taking aim at the Insurance Institute's claims:

Article summarizing USF findings:Study finds red light cameras cause accidents | Watchdog Wire - Florida:

Watchdog Wire - Study finds red light cameras cause accidents

University of North Carolina A&T study prepared for US DOT:

Crashes increase at Winnipeg intersections with 7 years of data:

Winnipeg Sun red light cameras disgrace

A California firm was found to rig their data in a bid to keep red light cameras:

California: Firm found to rig data in bid to keep rlc

 Analysis Of National Data Finds No Benefit To Red Light Cameras:


Roundup of Red Light Camera Studies:

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Stunning Cost/Benefit Analysis Obliterates Red Light Camera Credibility

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) today released the first true cost/benefit calculations of the NJ red light camera pilot program.  The numbers are striking, and devastating to the camera program.

“The best way to assess the success of any program – government or private – is to actually assess the value of the program versus the cost.  If a program costs you more than the value it returns, then it is a bad investment – and should be discontinued.  This is particularly applicable to automated enforcement programs like red light cameras.  If the total value of “accident cost savings” is less than the amount of fines charged, then the deal stinks for NJ drivers.  You can’t argue with these numbers because they come directly from the state study” said O’Scanlon.

O’Scanlon outlined that the methodology of the NJ red light camera study lends itself particularly well to a cost benefit analysis. “The NJ RLC study applies a monetary value to accidents based on the degree of severity. A fender bender costs $7,400, a possible injury costs $44,900, an ‘evident injury’ costs $79,000, a disabling injury costs $216,000 and a death – although there weren’t any deaths at qualified study intersections either before or during the assessment period – would cost $4,008,900. The numbers employed coming from straight from the Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual, from there it is easy to do the math” said O’Scanlon.

“The easy and most honest answer is that there were no savings – since we have demonstrated that cameras don’t improve safety.  So there are only costs.  Those costs amount to around $40 million per year.  That’s the total fines paid by NJ motorists – with normally half the proceeds going to the municipality, with the other half going to the camera operators. That’s almost too easy, so we decided to see if there would be net savings using the camera company/town fabricated savings numbers. They try to suggest that there are savings even though we have shown that any reductions line up with natural accident rate trends and fluctuations or can be attributed to factors other than the cameras.  Stunningly, even using the tortured numbers – the cameras are a disaster from a cost/benefit perspective.

Using the most statistically significant data set from New Jersey’s red light camera reports, 22 intersections with over 3 years of data, one finds that this data set averages 12,200 citations per month. This translates to 146,400 tickets per year costing motorists at least $12,444,000.  The supposed “savings” at those intersections is $390,000.  That leaves a net cost to motorists of over $12,000,000!  Looked at another way, the program takes almost $32 in fines for every $1 saved. By any objective standard, the red light camera experiment was a disaster. 

This Op-Ed originally appeared on

Here are links to studies supporting our claims on Red Light Cameras:

University of South Florida Study:

USF follow-up to their study, taking aim at the Insurance Institute's claims:

Article summarizing USF findings:Study finds red light cameras cause accidents | Watchdog Wire - Florida:

Watchdog Wire - Study finds red light cameras cause accidents

University of North Carolina A&T study prepared for US DOT:

Crashes increase at Winnipeg intersections with 7 years of data:

Winnipeg Sun red light cameras disgrace

A California firm was found to rig their data in a bid to keep red light cameras:

California: Firm found to rig data in bid to keep rlc

 Analysis Of National Data Finds No Benefit To Red Light Cameras:


Roundup of Red Light Camera Studies:



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Memorial Day 'Carpe Eatem' Column

This column was originally published Memorial Day 2000. I have repurposed it here, in honor of Memorial Day.



Today’s vocabulary word is “perspective.” Occasionally as we make our way through another

day, another week, another year, something happens that stops us in our tracks and makes us

think. Memorial Day is supposed to be a day that triggers that kind of reflection. Of course even

that day has become part of the yearly routine. Almost unnoticed. Certainly not given much

thought by most of us.


Memorial Day has become a day of summer’s anticipation during which we consume massive

amounts of food and drink and lie in the sun. Thus the connection to this column. This column

is about all the pleasures of food and good times. This one week it would be a good idea to put

the things we enjoy into perspective. How did we get “here” and who was responsible for

making “here” the great place it is.


There are not too many things in history - or traits of the people of our country - that we can look

at and say, with much certainty, that they were world changing events or characteristics. The

wars fought by the United States of America and the character of the people that fought them are

exceptions. Without either, the world would be a very different place.


I write this admittedly goofy column every week about cheese fries and hotdogs and mile long

buffet tables without much thought or thanks to those people that made the sacrifices that paid

for everything we have today. We as individuals are so proud of our own personal successes that

we frequently fail to realize that none of what we have today would have been possible without

that big eared kid that waved good-bye to his mom when he shipped off to fight and die in World

War II or I or any of the other wars or battles the United States has waged. I know there are

those that would argue that the purpose of some of the wars we have waged is debatable. Viet

Nam always stirs heated debate. But the men who served and died there were no less responsible

for instilling in the generations that have followed them a sense of honor and duty and courage

than were those who served in the previous campaigns.


This being a food oriented column I recently spent some time reflecting on the dinners that must

have been consumed around this country the night before a member of a family was shipped

overseas to die for us. Did their mothers know, via that 6 th sense that mothers seem to have, as

they served their sons that last meal that it would in fact be that? Did they pay extra special

attention to the way their sons held their forks, the huge amounts they ate and that they still had

to be reminded to eat their vegetables? Did they send them away the next day knowing they

would never see them again?


My generation has not had to go through the fear of the draft or the likelihood that we would - in

large numbers - be sent off to die in war. Our mothers haven’t had to face what they knew might

likely be our last meal with them. We haven’t had to go through those things because those that

came before us were strong enough to go through them for us – and those that go off to war

today volunteer to do so, so the rest of us won’t have to. The ghosts of those that have fallen sit

next to us at our picnic tables and it is – consciously or not - to them we drink. They sit there

I’m sure, reveling in the world they made possible, watching our children playing in the yard,

knowing that our children’s young lives hold as much potential as they do in no small part due to

the sacrifices our fallen heroes made.


I don’t intend for this column to leave anyone feeling depressed or even solemn. Reverence and

joy are not mutually exclusive emotions. In fact I can’t think of a place closer to heaven than a

backyard Memorial Day barbecue! We just should make sure we understand who we have to

thank for the day off and all the other wonderful things in our lives, and perhaps our lives

themselves. Don’t worry loyal readers - next week we’ll dive squarely back into the pool of

irreverence. It just never hurts to once and awhile remind ourselves who we have to thank for

that ability.

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O'Scanlon and Sweeney Discuss Present and Future of Pension System


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Blasting the Myths, and Making the Case for Reasonable Speed Limits

This Op-Ed is posted to

The editorial board recently took a position AGAINST setting speed limits based on engineering criteria and FOR setting limits based on the hunches of unqualified elected officials and bureaucrats.  The position is so fundamentally flawed, so based on decades-old defunct myths, so devoid of any basis in actual fact, that it's hard to decide where to begin.

My speed limit initiative is a simple one - set speed limits based on sound engineering criteria.  I would remove uninformed or profit-motivated elected officials and bureaucrats from the process. Traffic laws shouldn't be based on the random hunches of any of us. Setting any law by hunch only diminishes the public's confidence in ALL laws. That's not a way to enhance safety anywhere. Why should the public take a 25 mph school speed limit seriously when we randomly post such speed limits all over - including stretches of roadway that should be posted at 40?  Don't even get me started on the damage random limits have on the image of our police - who become the face of these arbitrary laws.

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Speed is Not Affected By Speed Limits, but Rather Human Behavior

Click here to view a study showing that speed limit changes have a nominal impact on driver safety

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Coming Together to Take on Addiction

There are many issues and challenges we face as a society that are ripe for spirited political debate.  Addiction isn't one of them.  Governor Christie's position that we must treat addiction as something other than a crime is exactly correct.  Addiction - whether you buy the disease designation or not - is for some people a virtually irresistible, destructive force that compels the addict's cooperation in his own destruction.  That concept can be a difficult one to reconcile for those who have had the good fortune not to have battled addiction - their own or a family member's. Unfortunately, that pool of lucky people is dwindling as the heroin epidemic continues to voraciously march through our streets and schools.  Alcohol, while not the substance of the moment, continues it's incessant march.


There is room for debate about exactly what addiction is.  Cancer is unquestionably a disease - seeming to have a mind of its own and an unrelenting mission no matter the intentions or actions of its victims.  Addiction, in many ways, is much more complicated.  It is a condition whose progression depends on the direct, intentional participation of the afflicted.  The fact that the addicted are complicit in their own destruction is both frustrating and confusing for all involved. It is easy for caregivers and loved ones to be sympathetic to cancer victims.  Addiction is as likely to elicit anger, blame and scorn as sympathy.

Addiction is akin to slow motion suicide.  It is excruciating for family members forced to watch their loved ones battle the disease or - even worse -appear to join the fight against themselves.  Begging and pleading for the addict to heal himself becomes a frustrating exercise in futility.  It seems like it should be so.....easy. If a cancer victim could.....just....stop her disease, she would.  Why can't so many of the addicted?  That's the battle. Against what is an irresistible compunction for so many people.

Senator Joe Vitale and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini have done incredible work in our efforts to battle addiction on the legislative front.  Governor Christie has consistently espoused compassion and treatment over scorn and incarceration. The recently enacted laws such as expansion of drug courts, strengthening prescription monitoring, encouraging proper disposal of unused medications and provision of treatment provider assessment reports are a good step in the right direction.  We need to prioritize addiction services, increase treatment services and provide opportunities for treatment BEFORE addicts end up in the legal system or in life-threatening crisis.  As things stand now we actually place barriers in front of those seeking voluntary treatment - the very people most likely to be able to turn their lives around.  There simply aren't enough beds and we focus on those already embroiled in the legal system - leaving those who might be the best candidates for treatment waiting weeks or months for help.  When you're on the slippery slope of addiction hours are critical, days are interminable, and weeks are incomprehensible.  It is tragic that the best advice one might give an addict begging for treatment is to get arrested.  This must be the next focus of we New Jersey policy-makers.

There are areas where we can do better to head off addiction before it starts.  The message we send our young people today is deeply flawed.  Telling them that marijuana and heroin are essentially equal threats is a joke that only works to destroy the credibility of our overall message.  Kids are smart.  If we say stupid things they will begin to ignore us, even when we're being wise.  We must accept that they're capable of understanding the nuance of the message "you shouldn't do alcohol and marijuana because they will damage your developing brains, but you shouldn't try pills and heroin because they will kill you".  


Our own insistence that we be prescribed heavy duty opiates for every ache and pain both exposes us to potential addiction triggers and provides access by our kids to millions of leftover pills in our medicine cabinets.  Our system of medical reimbursement encourages doctors to quickly assuage our requests - better to make us happy so they are highly rated and can get on to the next patient - than to take the time to convince us that an aspirin is all we really need.  

Heroin is the substance of the moment coursing through our neighborhoods - and too many of our childrens' veins - knowing no socio-economic or racial boundaries.  We must continue to shine a light on this epidemic - and let both addicts and their loved ones know they aren't alone and there is no shame in their torment.  Only by joining together as a community united in battling this scourge shall we defeat it.  


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